In Competition No. 3059 you were invited to supply a poem inspired by the periodic table.
The writer and chemist Primo Levi saw poetry in Mendeleev’s system for classifying the chemical elements, describing it as ‘poetry, loftier and more solemn than all the poetry we had swallowed down in liceo; and come to think of it, it even rhymed!’
Your entries were witty and well-turned, with many a nod to Tom Lehrer, whom I also had in mind when I set this challenge. Honourable mentions go to Frank McDonald’s smart acrostic, as well as to Martin Elster, Nicholas Stone and Christine Michael. The winners, printed below, snaffle £25 each.
Raise a toast to Dmitri, the great Mendeleev
And the atoms he charted his famous array of,
All the stuffs that all stuff’s the ornate interplay of
On landscapes he helped us decipher the lay of.
Toast the pale pastel leisure-wear hues and the
This table (bulked up a bit since Mendeleev),
Where groups abut periods stacked like parfait of
The properties they illustrate a buffet of.
Toast element 1, hydrogen, that mainstay of
The cosmos, then toast the split-second decay of
The heaviest yet in the scheme Mendeleev
Might not have imagined the long-lasting sway of.
In the patterns he choreographed his ballet of,
Element 118 makes the latest display of
The truth that today’s the enduring heyday of
These columns and rows that recall Mendeleev.
Dmitri Mendeleev, a Siberian, methodical,
Devised a nifty system called the Table Periodical:
From prototypal hydrogen to mega-mendelevium,
The scope and range of elements, you just would not beleevium!
There are lanathides and actinides, transition metals, halogens
And nasty noble gases emanating awful allergens;
The new kids on the block, the transuranics? Artificial,
With half-lives in the nanosphere, capricious, superficial.